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Full text of "There is only one answer"

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There Is Only 

One Answer... 



DOROTHY THOMPSON 




Issued by 
>^> AMERICAN ZIONIST EMERGENCY COUNCIL 

342 Madison Avenue, New York 17, N. Y. 



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There Is Only One Answer 

'N NOVEMBER we celebrated the twenty-sixth anniversary of a historic 

moment in the long life-history of the Jewish people. We celebrated the 
historic acknowledgment by the world's greatest imperium that the Jews are 
a nation; the historic expression of intention to provide them with a homeland 
in the country of their national origins. Let us here discuss what Winston 
Churchill once called the "solemn undertaking" of the British Government to 
accomplish this purpose. 

Palestine is not, nor ever was, "British:' It is not a British colony or pos- 
session. It was mandated for administration to Britain by the League of Nations, 
following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, of which it was a part, That 
Britain intended in Palestine to provide the first constructive solution in cen- 
turies to what both the Jewish and the Christian world acknowledged as a 
Jewish problem, lent the most powerful interest to the mandate. 

But from the very beginning the trouble was that Britain was committed 
to two seemingly contradictory policies and promises. The one had been given 
to the Jews, the other to the Arabs, during the period when Britain was encour- 
aging them to revolt from the yoke of the Sultan. Both promises were, there- 
fore, given partly in exchange for services rendered to Britain against the Otto- 
man Empire in the last war. But both were also political decisions, and both 
were attempts to fulfill just and reasonable national ambitions of two peoples, 
without prejudice to the ambitions and interests of the British Empire itself. 

The promise to the Jews was that there should be established in their historic 

5f birthplace "a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood 

that nothing shall be done which prejudices the civil and religious rights of 

°*> existing non- Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status 

2^ enjoyed by Jews in any other country." 

Seldom, in so few words, has a policy been more clearly and unmistakably 
expressed. 

It was not suggested that Palestine should be opened as a refuge for the 
persecuted; it was not suggested that immigration should be encouraged and 






There Is Only One Answer 



provided for, as it might be, for instance, to other sparsely populated places, 
such as Uruguay. Palestine was to be a national home, that is to say, the home 
of the Jewish nation. Acknowledging that it was a country also populated by 
Arabs, the promise was given to protect the rights of the existing Arab and 
other communities. In the one case the Jewish nation was acknowledged; in 
the other, the non- Jewish communities. Nothing was said about future Arab 
communities. Nothing was said about an Arab nation in Palestine. So, if the 
English language can be trusted in one of its most precise expressions, the prom- 
ise meant: Jewry may erect in Palestine a national state, but must grant, in that 
state, equal rights to those Arabs who are already settled there. 

The promise given to the Arabian world was that they would be encouraged 
to create an independent and sovereign Arabian nation, after they had been 
freed from Turkish subjection. 

How the Promises Have Been Kept 

Now, after a quarter of a century, both promises have been partly kept; 
neither promise has been fulfilled. 

The promise to the Arabs was much the larger promise, and the one more 
difficult of fulfillment. It involved vast territories, variously governed — Saudi- 
Arabia, Hedjaz, Syria, and Iraq. 

The development of these areas or countries was not identical. Saudi- 
Arabia became a quasi-independent state. Iraq became, first, a British mandate, 
and then a nearly sovereign state. Transjordan remained an Arab state under 
British mandate after being partitioned from Palestine. All were kept strictly 
within the British sphere of influence, so that to call any one of them inde- 
pendent, in respect especially of foreign relations, is an error. 

Syria, on the other hand, became a French mandate and virtually a French 
colony, though promised eventual independence, certainly with the tacit reser- 
vation that it would remain in the French sphere of influence. 

In all developments the British interest played, and naturally, a dominant 
role. The British needed, they thought, supervision and control over the whole 
area under their mandate for strategic and 'economic reasons. Strategically, the 
area covers the communication lines to India. Economically, it is rich in oil. 
And, politically, the British had to take into consideration the large Moslem 



By Dorothy Thompson 



populations in their other colonies, who sympathi2ed with Arab national aspira- 
tions, and were able, in the ever-unstable colonial world, to create considerable 
trouble in times of crisis. In India, for instance, there were ninety million 
Moslem Indians who had repeatedly formed the backbone of British Far Eastern 
armies in the past, as in this war, and who, in the minds of those charged with 
British colonial affairs, could be, and have been, used to counterbalance the 
Hindus. Egypt constituted another vast Moslem bloc. Egypt's status hovers, 
also, between sovereignty and colonialism. Egypt is sovereign to the degree 
that she has not even entered this war, but she holds her sovereignty on the 
tacit but very real condition that no non-British or anti-British power may use 
her as a base of operations, in case of war, while the British and their allies may. 

If we look, therefore, at the largest aspects of the British problem in the 
Moslem world, where do the Jews come in? 

In grand policy, it is clear that the Jews are being used, on the one hand, 
to counterbalance too-strong Arab aspirations, threatening the power structure 
of the British in the Middle East, and with repercussions upon the British posi- 
tion in the Far East. The Jews have been used as a diversion. The Arabs, 
instead of directing their struggle against the British Empire — an eventuality 
which I should, with the British, strongly regret — have been diverted against 
the Jews in Palestine. This has given the British the role of mediators, the 
power to divide and rule. When the Palestinian Arabs, spurred on by nation- 
alist agitators, revolted against the Jews, the Jews were protected by the British. 
When the Jews asked for increased immigration, the British sided with the Arabs. 

In this situation neither Jew nor Arab can achieve their aspirations. The 
Axis powers, who, under anti-imperialist slogans, have sought to intervene 
against the British in this area, have followed exactly the same tactics. Their 
own intentions being totally imperialistic, they have posed as protectors of the 
Arabs against both the British and the Jews. 

This is, in very condensed form, the history, as I see it, of what has happened 
to the Balfour Declaration. The mandatory power has considered chiefly its 
own interest, and I see no reason to hope that any such mandatory power, in 
any future, is likely to do anything else. 

Consequently, both Arabs and Jews have tried to persuade the mandatory 
power that British interests coincide with their own. 



There Is Only One Answer 



The Jews have a very good case in such attempts at persuasion. They argue, 
and can certainly prove, that the loyalty of the Arabs has been, to say the least, 
dubious in this war, and that if the whole of Palestine had been settled by Jews, 
their military value would have been of the greatest importance for Britain and 
the United Nations. They further argue that the economic value of Palestine 
has been improved by Jewish labor and capital above the value of any other 
mandate. This also is indisputable. 

The Arab princes, on the other hand, are sending emissaries abroad to prove 
that the Arab world can offer new and larger opportunities than the Palestinian 
Jews ever can, and that is also true, providing the Arabian world could deliver. 
And the Arabs, unlike the Jews, can hold over the British a real threat to the 
Empire. The Axis world would certainly offer the Jews nothing — nothing but 
extermination. The Axis world has offered the Arabs everything. The Axis 
world would keep its promise to the Jews. It would never keep its promise to 
the Arabs. But promises are sweet, in any case. 

The Solution for the Arab- Jewish Problem 

Now, I am forced honestly to say to you that I see no solution to this prob- 
lem in the present pattern of colonial power and of League of Nations so-called 
mandates. A genuine League of Nations, which would regard the political 
education and the economic development of all politically and economically 
backward areas as the mutual task of mankind, to be carried out for the primary 
benefit of the areas in question, and for the mutual benefit of mankind, under 
the protection of a common protective system, and in preparation for the time 
when all nations and peoples might enter it, is the only eventual solution for 
either the Arab or the Jewish homeland problem, or both. None of these prob- 
lems can be solved within the triangle of Jews-Arabs-British Empire. None of 
them can be solved except in the framework of a new world system. I say this 
with malice toward none, and least of all toward the British, for Britain has her 
own problems, of tremendous magnitude — problems which this war will not 
solve, and problems which require tremendous vision and immense capacity for 
adaptation if the structure which Britain has built through the centuries, and 
which for much more than a century has constituted the only integrating and 



By Dorothy Thompson 



stabilizing force on a world-wide scale, is not to fall apart, atomizing and setting 
adrift uncontrollable forces. 

Palestine is a very small part of the whole Middle Eastern complex and 
Arab world. Its loss for the Arabs would be negligible if they could really 
exchange it for their own security and opportunity for national development. 
And it could highly contribute to an economic and social regeneration and re- 
creation of the Middle East, once the center of civilization, fallen back, then, 
through centuries of corrupt and dismal foreign rule and exploitation. 

In my opinion, the first and minimum step toward disentanglement must 
be a clear-cut division of the political spheres of sovereignty of Jews and Arabs. 
In my opinion, that division was clearly implied in the Balfour Declaration. 
But, implied or not, it is obvious in practical politics that it is essential. Until 
that is done there can be nothing but strife, with the British continually medi- 
ating between contending interests. Until it is clear that here the Arab world 
stops and the Jewish world begins, there will be neither a Jewish nor an Arabian 
sovereignty anywhere in the Middle East, but only a British, de facto, if not 
de jure, 

Now, to pretend that the British Empire, or, better, the United Nations, or 
even the Anglo-American powers alone cannot do this, is preposterous. They 
• are taking over tremendous responsibilities, such as, for instance, to police and 
protect the globe against aggressive wars. To admit that, after this war, in 
which they will be victorious over all existing powerful enemies, they cannot 
draw a frontier and say: "Beyond this is Jewish— beyond that is Arab," is simply 
to admit that they cannot draw any frontiers or, indeed, deal with the colonial 
problem at all. The tactics of playing off one people against another and vice 
versa, and holding the balance, has not worked at all well since war flamed in 
the Far East, and it will never again achieve any stability anywhere. The most 
careful decisions must be made, and then these decisions must be adhered to, 
if the European peoples are to retain a vestige of prestige in the non-European 
areas of the earth. 

And you cannot reverse history, either, without being guilty of the utmost 
frivolity, a crime for which history seldom knows forgiveness. 

The Balfour Declaration and the mandating of Palestine to the British 
started an enterprise, and into this enterprise has been poured a fortune in 



8 * There Is Only One Answer 

money, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and a whole world of hope. 
The question is no longer whether there should be a Jewish home and a Jewish 
nation in Palestine. There is one. It exists. It is a reality. For this, tens of 
thousands of teachers and students have unburied the language of the Bible and 
Talmud, exhumed it from the dust of antique books, and made it a living, spoken 
tongue. For this, tens of thousands of youths from the ghettos of Europe have 
broken their backs upon the stones of Palestinian roads, and under its burning 
skies lifted their songs. For this, colonies have been founded and governed 
in the very spirit of the Mosaic law, translating the ethics of an ancient religion 
into a modern cooperative economy. For this, the desert has been made "to 
blossom like the rose," and for this, the wasteland has become again a "land 
flowing with milk and honey." The question: "Shall there be a Jewish nation 
in a Jewish homeland?" has been asked and answered already. So let us be 
ruthlessly clear in our minds that this question is not to be raised again. It 
cannot be raised. The question now is not: "Shall there be a Jewish homeland?" 
The question is: "Shall the existing Jewish homeland be allowed to grow and 
thrive, or shall the existing Jewish homeland be destroyed?" It can be destroyed, 
of course, in one of two ways. It can be blotted out, as the Polish ghetto was 
blotted out by the Gestapo, or it can be allowed to die a lingering death. 

As a lover and admirer of the greatness of Britain, I do not want to see her 
behave like a spoiled and whimsical old woman. Britain has greatly contributed 
to set into motion a chain of events. She cannot keep on changing her mind 
and intriguing that her own policies should come to nothing. For, if she does, 
one of these days the world will say, "The old lady is cracking up. Too bad, but 
perhaps it is just as well." No one in this country less desires to see this happen 
than I. 

The Nationhood of the Jews 

It is deeply to be regretted that, in this truly heroic struggle to re-create the 
Jewish nation, the Jewish communities in all countries are not united. It is 
curious, to me, that the nationhood of the Jews should be denied by Jews them- 
selves. It is un-understandable to me that, with their people hounded and perse- 
cuted through so large a portion of Christendom in a recrudescence of anti-Jewish 
feeling that recalls the Middle Ages, many Jews should still deny that there is 



By Dorothy Thompson 




a "Jewish problem" — a Jewish problem for both the Jews and the non-Jews. 
I have even encountered Jews among my own acquaintanceship who maintain 
that to acknowledge that there is a Jewish problem is in itself an expression of 
anti-Semitism. This flight into illusion is understandable among a people 
whose sufferings have, in this epoch, been so hideous that they prefer to avert 
their eyes. Yet self-imposed blindness is not the means of finding the path to 
light. 

The problems of the Jews are, to my mind, all traceable to a single phenom- 
enon: They are a nation curiously afflicted by being without the tangible and 
visible expression of nationhood — a nation without a country. Out of this fact 
arises the nameless fear that lies at the roots of anti-Semitism. The Jewish story 
is a ghost story, and therefore full of bogey-men. It haunts the mythology of 
primitive-minded Christians. What, to the average man, can be more awful 
than to be "A Man Without a Country'? If the Jews are a people without a 
country, doomed to wander the face of the earth, must that not be a punishment 
for some dreadful sin? Did not the Jews of the Sanhedrin crucify Christ? For 
that they are punished through endless time! So runs the myth, nor stops to 
think that Jesus of Nazareth was born in the very womb of Jewry, descendant 
of the great religious and philosophical line of Amos and Isaiah; nor that the 
Roman governors, who also understood how to divide and rule, sacrificed a 
dangerous Jew — in their terminology — to another set of Jews, and all for the 
glory and interest of Rome. 

But the myth exists, and nothing is more difficult to eradicate than a myth. 
It does not yield to reason, for it stands outside of reason, in the sub-conscious 
and unreachable regions of primitive emotions. 

It is said, "But the Jews are no nation*' — said by Jews. What, then, are 
they? Why do those who deny their nationhood call themselves Jews? We 
are, they say, a religion. But of what is that religion the expression? Can any 
Jew who celebrates the festivals and rituals of his religion deny that his is the 
religion of a specific people, whose ethos, practices, prohibitions, and laws have 
grown out of a specific and unique experience? Judaism is the religion of the 
Jews. That is its very name! It does not call itself "Mosaicism," as "Christian- 
ity" calls itself by the exalted name of its founder. What are a people if they 
are not a nation? They are a minority deprived of nationhood. What does a 



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There Is Only One Answer 



minority deprived of nationhood do? It attempts to retain its cohesion through 
inner-group controls, or it passes entirely out of history. No nation, not one, 
has shown such remarkable tenure of life under the most disadvantageous of 
circumstances as have the Jews. Where are the contemporaries of the childhood 
of this nation? Is there an American Babylonian Congress in New York? Or 
an American Babylonian Committee, asserting that they are not Babylonians? 
Is there an American Phoenician League? Is there a Chaldean Association? 
These peoples and nations have passed. They have assimilated or have been 
assimilated. Why have not the Jews passed? 

And there is only one answer, only one conceivable answer, unless one is 
to accept the bogey-man myth of the religious anti-Semites, that God kept them 
alive on this earth to furnish a horrible example of original sin. They are alive 
today because they remembered Zion. From the time when, by the waters of 
long-extinct Babylon, they sat down and wept, yea, hung their harps upon the 
willow and wept because they remembered Zion, they have remembered, and 
remembered without a break. Remembered through the Spanish Inquisition, 
remembered through the ghettos of the Middle Ages, remembered through the 
pogroms of Tsarist Russia, remembered through the inquisition and the new 
ghettos of Nazi Germany. They have remembered on every Sabbath in their 
synagogues, and remembered in their festivals. And how any Jew can divorce 
his religion from his nationhood is beyond my powers of comprehension. 

The Jewish State and the Jews Outside It 

The fear exists that the recognition of this nationhood will prejudice the 
status of Jews as citizens of other countries. I hold that to be an exact perversion 
of the real situation. All people change their citizenship and nationhood, as 
individuals, from time to time. This country is wholly composed, of persons 
who have done so. They have naturalized themselves from their own nation to 
another. The Jews, on the contrary, naturalize themselves from no nation of 
their own to any other. Hence, in the non- Jewish mind, they must carry their 
nation with them, no matter where they go. And in a very real sense this is true. 
My father, as I have said before in illustration of what I mean, was born an 
Englishman; my great-grandmother was a French woman. My father became 
an American, transferring his entire loyalties from one nation to another. But 



By Dorothy Thompson 1 1 

he left his own nation behind him. He was not wrecking it by leaving it. The 
problem of Jewish assimilation will, to my mind, disappear with great rapidity 
when the life of the Jewish people as a whole is normalized to the life of every 
other people. The Jewish people do not need a country capable of receiving 
all the Jews on the face of the earth. There happen to be more Irishmen in this 
country than there are in Ireland. No one doubts their rights as Americans, 
but no one finds the slightest discrepancy between this and the right of a free 
Ireland to exist. 

I speak as a Christian who dreams an ancient Jewish and Christian dream: 
that the nations of man may one day be gathered into a single fold, as free men 
and free nations of men, acknowledging the sovereignty above them all of a 
single law under God. I conceive the world of the future, if we are not all to 
perish at each other's hands, as a hierarchical structure, a House of Many Man- 
sions, in which all will be securely at home, as individuals, as persons, as families, 
as nations. Each nation will have its own room in that house, and its own 
garden to tend as it will, only provided that it does not abuse the earth and its 
resources. People will be free to move about in that house, and change their 
rooms as suits them and the other tenants. But before that can come about, 
everyone must have the status of a room. There must be no people who have 
no room of their own at all. 

I know there is room on this earth for everybody. And I know that those 
who hog rooms that they cannot or will not keep clean, and gardens that they 
cannot or will not cultivate, will lose them eventually to those who will and 
can. For such is the justice of history. 

In the words of the great European nationalist and internationalist, Mazzini: 
I love my country because I love the idea of country. What I covet for myself, 
I covet for all other men. Because I demand and insist upon a spot on this 
earth where my race and my people, my culture and my nation, recognize them- 
selves and are recognized as sovereign and at home, I demand and insist upon 
the rights of all others to the same. 



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